We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

E-book purchase
Choose a subscription

Downloaded copy on your device does not expire. Includes 4 years of Bookshelf Online.


Where applicable, tax will be added to the above price prior to payment.

E-book purchasing help


The Information-Literate Historian

A Guide to Research for History Students

Third Edition

Jenny L. Presnell

Publication Date - 31 May 2018

ISBN: 9780190851491

352 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

The most up-to-date history research guide available


The Information-Literate Historian: A Guide to Research for History Students is the only book specifically designed to teach today's history students how to successfully select and use sources--primary, secondary, and electronic--to carry out and present their research. Expanded and updated, the third edition of The Information-Literate Historian continues to be an indispensable reference for historians, students, and other readers doing history research.

New to this Edition

  • A new chapter (Chapter 8) on digital history
  • A new checklist for research tracking
  • An expanded discussion of how historians think historically and how that changes and influences how they structure their research and write their narratives
  • A revised discussion on note-taking and paper organization, including Zotero for note-taking and bibliography
  • Updated search techniques for library catalogs, going beyond subject searching and addressing discovery services and multi-database searching
  • Revised searching techniques for WorldCat
  • A new discussion of Hathi Trust and other large online catalogs
  • New coverage of "fake news" and how to identify it, past and present
  • An expanded discussion of primary sources from cultures that have strong material and oral traditions
  • A new section on researching pre-civil war African American primary sources
  • Revised sections on maps, Geographic Information Systems, and the interpretation and evaluation of images
  • Includes new methods of presenting research and a discussion of alternative presentation software

About the Author(s)

Jenny L. Presnell is a Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at Miami University, Ohio.


"My students love this book. The author provides relevant, accessible, well-organized chapters on topics not covered effectively in other research guides."--Christina M. Jimenez, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Table of Contents

    New to this Edition
    Introduction: What It Means to Be a Historian

    Basic Research
    1. Historians and the Research Process: Getting Started
    How Scholarly Information is Communicated
    What Historians Do and How They Do It
    How to Think Historically
    Beginning Your Research
    Where Do Viable and Interesting Topics Come From?
    Developing a Question and Formulating an Argument
    The Blueprint: Concept Maps, Storyboarding, and Outlines
    Taking Notes
    Creating Bibliographies and Documenting Sources
    The Changing Nature of Historical Research and What Remains the Same
    For Further Reading

    2. Reference Resources
    What Are Reference Resources and When Are They Useful?
    How to Find Reference Resources
    Types of Reference Resources
    Multivolume General Histories
    Biographical Resources
    Dictionaries, Etymologies, and Word Origins
    Book Reviews
    Using the Internet as a Reference Resource
    Case Study: Using Reference Resources to Understand Herodotus

    3. Finding Monographs and Using Catalogs
    What Is a Book? The Changing Nature of Monographs
    When Are Books the Right Choice for Information?
    How to Use a Book Artfully
    Finding Monographs and Using Catalogs
    Navigating a Library Portal/Finding the Catalog
    Strategic Searching: Keyword vs. Subject Searching
    Keyword Searching
    Subject Searching
    Alternative Searching: Faceted Catalogs and Limiting
    How to Read an Online Catalog Record
    Finding Monographs and Using Catalogs Outside of Your School
    Sources for Catalogs
    Where Else Can I Find Monographs?
    Case Study: Finding and Using Monographs: The Spread of Islam in Western Africa

    4. Finding Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers: Using Indexes
    What are Periodicals (or Journals, Magazines, Newspapers)?
    Journals vs. Magazines
    Commentary Periodicals
    The Role of Newspapers in Secondary Historical Research
    Journal Articles: The Core of Secondary Periodical Research
    How to Read a Journal Article
    How to Find Articles: Designing a Search and Using an Index
    Using an Online Database: Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life
    Entering a Keyword Search in Historical Abstracts
    What You Will Get: Looking at Your Results
    Selecting Other Indexes
    E-Journals and Electronic Collections of Journals
    Case Study: Searching for Periodical Articles: Canton Trade System
    Selected Historical Indexes
    Selected Periodical Indexes of Use to Historians

    5. Evaluating Your Sources
    Why Evaluate Your Sources?
    Basic Evaluation Criteria
    Perspective and Bias: Historians and Interpretation
    Scholarship or Propoganda?
    Case Study: Evaluating Sources: Holocaust Historians

    6. The Thrill of Discovery: Primary Sources
    Nature and Categories of Primary Sources
    Planning Your Project with Primary Sources
    Locating Primary Sources
    Digitization and Electronic Access to Primary Sources
    Published Sources for Mass Consumption
    Books as Primary Sources
    Magazines and Journals as Primary Sources
    Newspapers as Primary Sources
    Unpublished Sources and Manuscripts
    Catalogs, Bibliographies, Directories, and Indexes for Manuscripts
    Directories to Archive Repositories
    Documents from Governments and Other Official Bodies
    Indexes, Full Text Sources, and Bibliographies of Government Documents
    Directories/Bibliographies for Government/Guides to Government Publications
    Genealogy and Public Records
    Guides for Genealogy and Public Records
    Oral History
    Guide to Oral History Repositories
    Material Culture: Buildings, Artifacts, and Objects
    History before 1400: Ancient and Medieval Cultures and Those with Substantial Oral and Material Culture Traditions
    Ancient History
    Medieval European History
    Indigenous Peoples, Former Colonial Nations, and African American History
    Using Bibliographies to Locate Primary Sources
    Bibliographies Containing References to Primary Sources
    Case Study: Finding Primary Sources: Tobacco through the Ages
    For Further Reading
    Bibliography of Advanced Indexes to Published Primary Sources

    7. History and the Internet
    The Internet and Research
    When Is the Internet Appropriate for Historical Research?
    Practicing History in the Electronic Age: Using the Internet
    Using the Internet: The Basics
    How Do I Access Websites on the Internet?
    Search Directories
    Search Engines
    Meta-Search Engines
    What Am I Missing? The Deep Web or Invisible Web
    Special Search Techniques: Finding Primary Sources on the Internet
    Searching for Primary Sources
    Historians Communicating: Using Listservs and Blogs for Information
    Evaluation of Websites
    General Websites
    Evaluating Sites Concerned with Primary Sources
    Case Study: Using the Internet: Japanese Americas and Internment Camps

    Advanced Reserach Techniques for Primary Sources

    8. Digital History
    What Digital History Is and Is Not
    Approaches to Digital History
    How to Perform Simple Digital Textual Analysis
    Digital Textual Analysis Tools
    Examples of Digital History Projects
    Beginning Your Own Digital History Project
    For Further Reading

    9. Maps: From Simple to Geographic Information Systems
    Maps as Representations of Our World
    A Short History of Maps and Cartography
    Maps for Navigation and Commercial Use
    Maps as Political Tools
    Maps as Propaganda
    Maps Marking Territory
    Maps in War
    Components of Modern Maps
    Finding Maps
    Categories of Historical Maps
    Maps Resources
    How to Read a Map
    Questions to Ask When Reading a Map
    Planning Your Own Map: Simple to Complex
    For Further Reading
    History of Maps and Cartography
    Maps and General Geography Texts
    Geographic Information Systems

    10. Beyond the Written Word: Finding, Evaluating, and Using Images, Motion Pictures, and Audio
    The Role of the Media in Historical Research: Images Throughout History
    Photography: Real Life Captured?
    Art as Visual Media: Painting and Drawing
    Moving Images: Fact and Fiction: Newsreels, Documentaries, Motion Pictures, and Television Programs
    Searching for Visual Media
    Collections of Historic Images
    Search Engines and Meta-Search
    Engines for Images and Indexes to Image Collections
    Images on the Internet: Some Cautions
    Digital Video: Using Moving Images
    Searching on the Web
    Audio, Music, and Speech Resources
    Searching for Audio Materials
    For Further Reading

    11. Statistics: Quantifying History
    A Society of Statistics
    A Short History of the Evolution of Statistical Collection and Analysis: What Can You Expect to Find?
    Categorizing Statistics: How They Are Collected and Organized
    Demographics/Vital Statistics/Census Data
    Economic Statistics
    Social Statistics
    Public Opinion and Consumer
    Gleaning Statistics from Primary Sources
    Finding Statistics
    How to Think about the Sources
    Search Strategies
    Evaluating Statistics: Common Problems with Data Collection and Results
    Questions to Evaluate Data
    Data Problems: Signs That Something is Wrong
    Datasets: Doing Your Own Thing
    Selected Resources
    Understanding Statistics
    Collections of General Statistics/Statistical Abstracts
    Almanacs and Yearbooks
    Economic, Financial, and Commercial Statistics
    General Demographics, Social Characteristics
    Polls/Public Opinion
    Market Research
    Major Social Surveys
    Bibliographies and Indexes for Statistics
    Finding and Using Datasets
    For Futher Reading
    Case Study: Contextualizing Statistics

    Presenting Your Research
    12. Presenting Your Research: Traditional Research Paper, Presentation, Poster, or Website?
    Creating a Research Paper
    Writing Style
    Formulating an Argument
    Paper Construction
    Ebb and Flow of Paragraphs
    Public Presenting
    Oral, Slide, and Poster Presentation
    Creating a Poster
    Creating Websites for Historical Research
    Historical and Scholarly Websites
    Website Design: How to Begin
    Preplanning: The Major Considerations
    What Every Good Website Must Have
    Writing Text for the Web
    Common Mistakes to Avoid on Websites
    Case Study: A Student Paper: "Americans and the Bomb"
    For Further Reading


Related Titles